Cover crops, which bring beauty and health to the land, have been grown in orchards and vineyards since at least the Roman times. Not only are they helpful in suppressing weeds, but the gorgeous yellow blooms of the mustard plant in spring are a sight to behold (stay tuned for spring pictures of mustard in bloom).
Cover crop roots penetrate deeply into the soils preventing erosion, and encourage the growth of soil microbes, which produce subtances that increase soil aggregation and lead to improved water infiltration. When mowed under in the spring, they contribute to improved soil tilth.
Crops such as red clover, bell beans, Magnum peas and vetch allow certain bacteria to absorb nitrogen from the air and fix it into usable protein molecules for use by the plant, promoting soil fertility. They also act as insectary plants to bring in beneficial insects and spiders that feed on pests. Of course this also means a better habitat for our honey bees as well as beautiful edible flowers for our spring salads! Check out this YouTube link for a glimpse of what these cover crops look like in January 2021.